In the late 1800s, a strange fever afflicted Europe. It gripped such notable enlightenment thinkers as Voltaire and Montesquieu. Dubbed ‘Anglomania’, it was, as the name suggests, a craze for all things English, in particular, the style and dress of the English gentleman.
Since then, storied, august names, such as underwear maker Sunspel, glove maker Dents, hatters Lock and Co, and shoe maker John Lobb have done much over the course of their history to ensure that Anglomania continues unabated.
Between them they have dressed almost every notable male figure of the past 200 years, and yet, we know very little about these companies. Perhaps that’s because there’s a quiet confidence that comes from knowing you’re the best. In any case, it’s hardly very English to blow one’s own trumpet now is it?
Enter, ‘Best of British’, a new, sumptuously illustrated book produced by Toby Egelnick, our creative director, featuring photographs by Horst Freidreich and text by Permanent Style’s Simon Crompton.
It tells the story of some of Britain’s iconic brands, taking a behind the scenes look at the workshops and factories that produce clothes that have adorned some of history’s most famous and infamous figures.
Discover how Nelson’s eye patch was made at Locke and Co, or how John Lobb created the deceptively simple and unimpeachably elegant slip on shoe that was a favourite of Frank Sinatra. Reading it makes you realise how so much of what we consider correct and appropriate in men’s dress, was conceived of in these workshops.
Today, whether it’s Tokyo, New York, Milan, Shanghai or Paris – anywhere a man needs to dress with dignity, refinement and elegance – there’ll be a corner of his wardrobe that will be forever British.
What we think
Of course, we think this is great! Our creative director, Toby Egelnick, was behind it. However, Best of British also shows how the British approach to luxury is different from its French and Italian counterparts. Firstly, British luxury is discreet to the point of invisibility. Many British brands of this calibre still don’t do or say much in terms of marketing and promotion. Take the Anderson and Sheppard custom of stitching labels onto the inside of a jacket pocket – it is the man wearing the suit that matters, not the brand. Also, their products are built to last. Suits, shoes, jackets last for decades at a time and often go in for repairs at the place they were made. As such they are also eminently practical. You can dance the night away in your Anderson and Sheppard suit and John Lobb shoes in perfect comfort – just as Fred Astaire used to.